Learning from the past to inform the future…

I have just embarked on another year of the DN Made International Programme at l’Ecole de Design Nantes Atlantique, in charge of tutoring students around the development of their Dissertations around their personal design projects.

One of my favourite exercises to open the semester with, is the development of a Historical Timeline around their individual themes. I start by showing them the 3000 year history of the Hoodie – a TED Talk by Paola Antonelli, the Senior Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the MOMA in New York.


I then show them how a Timeline can be developed based on this video using the Blog Observing Leslie, and to see how this type of information can be translated into other communications and forms. Here you will see a basic Historical Timeline, it should perhaps go into a little more detail than this, but it does have the key dates.

I then show them the book which Alison Kinney dedicated to this garment and it’s history called Hood.

“We all wear hoods: the Grim Reaper, Red Riding Hood,

torturers, executioners and the executed, athletes,

laborers, anarchists, rappers, babies in onesies, and

anyone who’s ever grabbed a hoodie on a chilly day.”

Alison Kinney, Author of Hood.
Hood by Alison Kinney. Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing

You can also find here, a Research Paper around the same subject. The hoodie: Consumer choice, fashion style and symbolic meaning. written Osmud Rahman, Professor (Associate)
Ryerson University School of Fashion which featured in the International Journal of Fashion Studies.

What I am trying to convey to the students is that they are all entry points we can use to access information and data that can be used as research materiaal around a project. From Dark Grey to White data, we can find some interesting things, but we have to make sure to go deep into a subject, find the right sources and check information along the way.

Why is an Historical Timeline interesting to open your research project?

1. Understand the general flow of chronological history in relation to their subject.
2. See the full picture of a particular era around a product/service/issue from beginning to end.
3. Make connections between individual events and people – and their relation to an era
as a whole.
4. Grasp the overlapping or concurrency of seemingly unrelated events, contexts or
5. Notice patterns played out in history – socially, politically, technologically…
6. Identify cause and effect relationships surrounding historical events.
7. Memorize important moments easier to go deeper into later.
8. Be able to synthesise a large amount of historical information around their project in a relatively simple graphical timeline.
9. Be able to present work as a creative artifact, clearly and succinctly, which can be used in its entirety as an artifact or can be broken up into facts throughout the body text to highlight certain points.

At the end of this exercise, students can decide which points they find useful to reinvent their own projects around.

As a big fan of David Bowie I thought I would end on a Timeline about his incredible life…


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